Chronicles of America 

Settlement of Maryland 1634

Only the personal friendship of England's King and the tact and suave sagacity of the Proprietary himself could have procured the signing of this charter, since it was known -- as it was to all who cared to busy themselves with the matter -- that here was a Catholic meaning to take other Catholics, together with other scarcely less abominable sectaries, out of the reach of Recusancy Acts and religious pains and penalties, to set them free in England-in-America; and, raising there a state on the novel basis of free religion, perhaps to convert the heathen to all manner of errors, and embark on mischief far too large for definition. Taking things as they were in the world, remembering acts of the Catholic Church in the not distant past, the ill-disposed might find some color for the agitation which presently did arise. Baltimore was known to be in correspondence with English Jesuits, and it soon appeared that Jesuit priests were to accompany the first colonists. At that time the Society of Jesus loomed large both politically and educationally. Many may have thought that there threatened a Rome in America. But, however that may have been, there was small chance for any successful opposition to the charter, since Parliament had been dissolved by the King, not to be summoned again for eleven years. The Privy Council was subservient, and, as the Sovereign was his friend, Baltimore saw the signing of the charter assured and began to gather together his first colonists. Then, somewhat suddenly, in April, 1632, he sickened, and died at the age of fifty-three.

His son, Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, took up his father's work. This young man, likewise able and sagacious, and at every step in his father's confidence, could and did proceed even in detail according to what had been planned. All his father's rights had descended to him; in Maryland he was Proprietary with as ample power as ever a Count Palatine had enjoyed. He took up the advantage and the burden.

The father's idea had been to go with his colonists to Maryland, and this it seems that the son also meant to do. But now, in London, there deepened a clamor against such Catholic enterprise. Once he were away, lips would be at the King's ear. And with England so restless, in a turmoil of new thought, it might even arise that King and Privy Council would find trouble in acting after their will, good though that might be. The second Baltimore therefore remained in England to safeguard his charter and his interests.

The family of Baltimore was an able one. Cecil Calvert had two brothers, Leonard and George, and these would go to Maryland in his place. Leonard he made Governor and Lieutenant-general, and appointed him councilor. Ships were made ready -- the Ark of three hundred tons and the Dove of fifty. The colonists went aboard at Gravesend, where these ships rode at anchor. Of the company a great number were Protestants, willing to take land, if their condition were bettered so, with Catholics. Difficulties of many kinds kept them all long at the mouth of the Thames, but at last, late in November, 1633, the Ark and the Dove set sail. Touching at the Isle of Wight, they took aboard two Jesuit priests, Father White and Father Altham, and a number of other colonists. Baltimore reported that the expedition consisted of "two of my brothers with very near twenty other gentlemen of very good fashion, and three hundred labouring men well provided in all things."

These ships, with the first Marylanders, went by the old West Indies sea route. We find them resting at Barbados; then they swung to the north and, in February, 1634, came to Point Comfort in Virginia. Here they took supplies, being treated by Sir John Harvey (who had received a letter from the King) with "courtesy and humanity." Without long tarrying, for they were sick now for land of their own, they sailed on up the great bay, the Chesapeake.

Soon they reached the mouth of the Potomac -- a river much greater than any of them, save shipmasters and mariners, had ever seen -- and into this turned the Ark and the Dove. After a few leagues of sailing up the wide stream, they came upon an islet covered with trees, leafless, for spring had hardly broken. The ships dropped anchor; the boats were lowered; the people went ashore. Here the Calverts claimed Maryland "for our Savior and for our Sovereign Lord the King of England," and here they heard Mass. St. Clement's they called the island.

But it was too small for a home. The Ark was left at anchor, while Leonard Calvert went exploring with the Dove. Up the Potomac some distance he went, but at the last he wisely determined to choose for their first town a site nearer the sea. The Dove turned and came back to the Ark, and both sailed on down the stream from St. Clement's Isle. Before long they came to the mouth of a tributary stream flowing in from the north. The Dove, going forth again, entered this river, which presently the party named the River St. George. Soon they came to a high bank with trees tinged with the foliage of advancing spring. Here upon this bank the English found an Indian village and a small Algonquin group, in the course of extinction by their formidable Iroquois neighbors, the giant Susquehannocks. The white men landed, bearing a store of hatchets, gewgaws, and colored cloth. The first Lord Baltimore, having had opportunity enough for observing savages, had probably handed on to his sagacious sons his conclusions as to ways of dealing with the natives of the forest. And the undeniable logic of events was at last teaching the English how to colonize. Englishmen on Roanoke Island, Englishmen on the banks of the James, Englishmen in that first New England colony, had borne the weight of early inexperience and all the catalogue of woes that follow ignorance. All these early colonists alike had been quickly entangled in strife with the people whom they found in the land.

First they fell on their knees, And then on the Aborigines.

But by now much water had passed the mill. The thinking kind, the wiser sort, might perceive more things than one, and among these the fact that savages had a sense of justice and would even fight against injustice, real or fancied.

The Calverts, through their interpreter, conferred with the inhabitants of this Indian village. Would they sell lands where the white men might peaceably settle, under their given word to deal in friendly wise with the red men? Many hatchets and axes and much cloth would be given in return.

To a sylvan people store of hatchets and axes had a value beyond many fields of the boundless earth. The Dove appeared before them, too, at the psychological moment. They had just discussed removing, bag and baggage, from the proximity of the Iroquois. In the end, these Indians sold to the English their village huts, their cleared and planted fields, and miles of surrounding forest. Moreover they stayed long enough in friendship with the newcomers to teach them many things of value. Then they departed, leaving with the English a clear title to as much land as they could handle, at least for some time to come. Later, with other Indians, as with these, the Calverts pursued a conciliatory policy. They were aided by the fact that the Susquehannocks to the north, who might have given trouble, were involved in war with yet more northerly tribes, and could pay scant attention to the incoming white men. But even so, the Calverts proved, as William Penn proved later, that men may live at peace with men, honestly and honorably, even though hue of skin and plane of development differ.

Now the Ark joins the Dove in the River St. George. The pieces of ordnance are fired; the colonists disembark; and on the 27th of March, 1634, the Indian village, now English, becomes St. Mary's.

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